My wife is a champion shopper
My OCD is writing and my wife Madhavi’s is shopping.
Last year as we were walking down Hazratganj in Lucknow, Madhavi saw a sign which galvanised her into instant action: ‘Sari sale: up to 80% discount’.
I followed her into the huge shop, almost the size of a mini football field. As soon as I entered I saw sea of shoppers of the female variety unleashing a virtual tsunami of physical and oral calisthenics. Like a parched soul heading for the oasis, Madhavi dashed to the counter behind which was emblazoned the legend: 80% discount.
There was a virtual mountain of saris on the counter. The ladies were rummaging through the saris on three sides and on the fourth stood a hapless salesperson, who looked like the speaker of the Bihar assembly with the budget session in progress.
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My wife against the bhabhiji
After ten odd minutes of ‘scanning’, Madhavi grabbed one sari and tugged. The sari, like Hanuman’s tail in Mahabharata, remained ‘unmoved’. I whispered to Madhavi, “You see the bhabhiji in the scandalous pink outfit. She is at the other end of the sari.”
Madhavi looked at her competitor and then hesitated for a second.
I whispered again, this time with a profound sense of urgency, “Have you forgotten that your records in discus, javelin and shotput during your college days still stand unbroken? Are you going to allow a ‘pink’ bhabhiji to maul your reputation?”
Madhavi, a resolute look on her face, pulled with all her might and the result was instantaneous. Bhabhiji lost her balance, the sari regained 50% of its freedom and Madhavi had notched up yet another feat – snatching a sari from the grasp of a Bhabhi.
She’s great at bargaining, too!
Madhavi is not merely a great shopper. In the arena of bargaining too, I have yet to see a more consummate professional whose dexterity has been proved beyond borders.
A few years ago we had gone on an African Safari to East Africa. On the second day we were sitting in our safari jeep outside Amboseli National Park, waiting for the permits. I saw half a dozen Maasai women and a man running towards us from a settlement close by. They were carrying necklaces, bangles, earrings and handicrafts. The man, who was the first to reach, pushed two statues of a Maasai couple through the window of the jeep at Madhavi.
The statues, made of wood, were attired in the traditional ‘Kanga’ dress of the Maasai and looked exotic.
“How much?” Madhavi asked.
“Okay my price 50 dollars for the pair.”
“10 dollars for the pair,” Madhavi, who regards herself as the best bargainer on Planet Earth, said without batting an eyelid.
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Adjusting to a foreign market
In India, when Madhavi bargains on the streets of Srinagar, the markets of Coimbatore, the bazaars of Jodhpur or the lanes of Shillong, she starts at one third the rate for fear of getting lynched. Here she was starting at one fifth, possibly finding safety in the fact that the locals wouldn’t string up a foreigner, that too a woman.
“45 for two,” the man calmly replied.
Just then I saw an old woman whose face had a lot of ‘character’.
I focused my camera on the lady and was about to click when my subject said, “Photo, one dollar.”
I was taken aback and our driver explained. “The Maasai people demand money for posing for photographs.”
Our vendor now had another handle to bargain. “Last price – 40 dollars and the photo of the old woman for free.”
Now this was getting interesting – a slice of cash and bit of barter!
Madhavi was not the one to give up; after all, her standing was at stake. Finally, after 18 minutes of negotiation, she clinched the deal.
“18 dollars and the photo of the old woman for free,” Madhavi declared, her eyes shining as if she had just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on stilts!
Her taste is better than mine
I love going shopping with Madhavi. It offers tax-free entertainment and gives me loads of masala to indulge in leg pulling later. She shops for herself, the home and me. From shoelaces to other elements of sartorial elegance, every piece I wear has been bought by her. And that is the way it should be, since ours is a love marriage, and I believe her taste is better than mine!
The only time when I had initiated a shopping expedition was at Munich Airport. I saw this super awesome Sex Shop and grabbing Madhavi’s hand I said, “Come, let’s take a look.”
She gave me the same look of disgust which she had directed at me one month, ten days, three hours and seven minutes into our marriage when I had suggested ‘69’.
Naturally the expedition was abandoned before it even started and we went to the next shop and bought bright crimson nail polish for Madhavi and a pair of dull grey socks for me.